Want to learn how to meditate but not sure where to start? Meditating for just 10 minutes can reset your mind, reduce anxiety and help you feel more in control.
Don’t worry about sitting in lotus position, repeating a mantra or having some incense to hand. Meditation is steeped in woo-woo myths, but it’s really just the ability to focus on the present moment and noticing when you get distracted by your thoughts.
Here, Linda and Marion Williams – authors of My Mind Won’t Shut Up! Meditation For People Who Don’t Meditate and self-proclaimed "sturdy-legged Glaswegians with short attention spans"– talk us through a simple 10-minute sound meditation and the benefits meditating can bring to an anxious mind.
How to meditate: Sound meditation
One of the best ways to help with anxiety is to use sound as your focus for meditation. Sound is an excellent anchor because you can do it anywhere – on your morning walk, in the car. Another great benefit is that no one will know you’re doing it!
Focusing on external sounds takes your attention away from anxious thoughts and refocuses you on the present moment. When you’re stressed you’re not usually aware of the endless repetitive dialogue in your head that is triggering your anxiety.
Most of your thoughts will either be ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Meditation brings you into the present moment, giving your mind a break from all the nonsense. It’s probably best not to try sound meditation when you can hear an angle grinder or a chainsaw nearby, but other than that, any sounds will do.
Sound meditation can easily be incorporated into little pockets of your day, so you don’t need to find extra time to do it. Including a few moments of clear awareness of the present moment can make a huge difference to your day, give you a little more clarity, peace and calm. Who doesn’t need a little more of that in their life?
More anxiety advice:
How to meditate: Try this 10-minute sound meditation for anxiety
You can use this meditation any time you feel jittery, or when you just want to give yourself a bit of a break. With practice meditation gives you the ability to drop the unhelpful chattering (usually negative) in your mind and focus on the present moment. This is fantastic for your mental health, as we all know how much unhelpful overthinking we do!
Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes. Take a few breaths just to settle in a little.
Then gently turn your attend to the sounds that you can hear. What can you hear right now? Traffic noise? Maybe birds? People chatting next to you? Just notice what sounds are in your direct environment and keep your attention there. Notice how the sounds arise, change and finish. Observe that you can’t hold on to sounds for a second longer than they last.
When you get distracted by thinking (and you probably will almost immediately) just gently go back to listening sounds again. Try not to get caught up in thinking about the sounds, or judging them. Just notice the raw data of the sounds in the present moment. Enjoy the fact that you don’t have to control any sounds, they just come and go.
If your focus feels hazy, try to sharpen it up by noticing the precise moment when a sound arrives and try to follow it until it finishes. Again, if you get distracted just gently come back to listening again.
You can notice the quality of the sounds, but try not to get into thinking about them or telling yourself a story about them. If that happens just drop the story and go back to listening to the sounds.
If you notice you have a response to the sounds, either liking it or shrinking from it, just accept what is there rather than reacting to it.
What can you hear now? Maybe the wind? A police siren? A phone ringing? Don’t get caught up in labelling the sounds, you just want to acknowledge what is there.
Remember kindness is key, if you get distracted please don’t shout at yourself. Just notice and go back to listening to sounds.
When your timer pings, you’re done!
Give yourself a few moments to re-orient yourself to the rest of your surroundings. And feel good that you have looked after yourself in a positive way.
How to meditate: Don't fret about distractions
Don’t worry about getting distracted by thinking, that's just what your mind does. Everyone’s minds chatter all the time. The tricky part is not to get so caught up in it, it’s one of those simple but not easy things.
Noticing you are distracted is the whole point of meditation. If instead of focusing on the present moment you find yourself thinking about what to have for dinner, or you’re ruminating over a conversation you had earlier, just take yourself back to the present moment. Instead of beating yourself up, congratulate yourself – you noticed, that means you’re doing it right!
Meditation also shows you how much nonsense is in your head, and that not every thought is worth your attention. It can lighten you up a little and really help with anxious thoughts.
My Mind Won’t Shut Up! Meditation For People Who Don’t Meditate is published on 1st January 2021 by Trigger Publishing, priced £8.99, available online and from all good bookstores.
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